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to tell the audience about developments in the service. Part of that film can be seen if you search RFD Alice Springs for the Hologram.

At the conclusion of the film, John walks from the stage to disappear into his monument.

Across the road, at display of reptiles, the guide explained the habits of snakes and goanna’s. A salt water crocodile almost four metres in length  lay in his pool. The strength and agility of the animal was demonstrated by the attendant. The animal does not have good sight but highly developed senses. A long pole just touching the surface of the water demonstrated its mighty strength. At the end of the day, the Ghan waited. Next stop Coober Pedy.

The coming of dawn revealed the desert, dry and devoid of trees. Leaving the Ghan on a the remote siding of Manguri the waiting coaches set of for Coober Pedy. The journey to the town, over forty kilometres from the siding, finally revealed the opal fields. Cone shaped mounds of earth beside mines and heaps of earth gouged by bulldozers.

First indication of opal mines, in a landscape barren and treeless, perhaps unchanged for a million years. The first signs of mining are found. The coach continued east and soon the Breakaway’s, a range of hills some forty kilometres to the north-east of  Coober Pedy came into view, A turn to the south put the coach on the Stuart Highway, then Coober Pedy emerged from the desert.

The town is not flat barren desert as it is envisaged by many. A number of hills in a cluster are the centre of the town. Some homes are above ground. Others are in hills, most denuded by the search for opal, have been excavated for homes and business. In the 1960’s and 70’s, nationalities from all over the world came in search of opal. The Greek population was strongly represented; the people responsible for the many olive groves and olive trees in the town.

The homes are something extraordinary to live in. Many have been tastefully created with interior walls over a metre thick where silence  prevails. When the outside heat is stifling, the occupants escape the heat for a constant indoor temperature. The home is a means to not only escape the blistering heat of day; as the sun falls it turns cold, very cold. Outdoor barbeques invariably end at  sunset with an exodus into the home.

To say that the town has changed in the past forty years is true. Now there are few hills within the town that have not been turned into something resembling mullock heaps or into which a church or a business has been tunnelled. The coach wound its way through the town with the guide  explain  the scenery and excavations. The Coober Pedy Golf course with its unique reciprocal membership to  St Andrews in Scotland is popular. Locals sometimes say that the “greens” are made by alien space craft landings. A stop at the Coober Pedy cemetery was of interest. One deceased member of the community before death made stipulations. A beer Keg is his tombstone.

Following a tour of the underground church, it was time for lunch was in an opal mine. Tables set with linen tablecloths and silver cutlery waited for passengers where chefs prepared and staff from the Ghan served the meal. In the interests of safety, guests wore hard hats issued when they boarded the coach at Manguri Siding. Although the

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                  Toward Coober Pedy; The Opal fields

Alice Springs